Criminals missing target for starting community orders

Thousands of criminals on punishment work placements are waiting more than the Scottish Government's seven-day target before starting their unpaid labour, with some hanging around for months.

Liam Kerr lamented the failures. Pic - Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament

Figures obtained under Freedom of Information legislation has found that more than 4,000 convicted criminals waited more than the seven days maximum before starting their community payback order (CPO) work placements. The statistic represents around one-third of the total CPOs imposed.

Additional figures obtained by the Scottish Conservatives under Freedom of Information legislation show that hundreds of offenders wait months to start their work placements. In total, 800 offenders had to wait over one month and almost 1,000 had to wait over two months to start work placements, with the longest wait at 475 days.

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The figures showed that while the number of CPOs with unpaid work or other activity requirement fell last year, it is still almost 2,000 higher than in 2012, and the number of criminals waiting longer than seven days to start activity has also risen by 500.

The figures are the latest to identify a fall in the percentage of criminals starting work orders on time in the last three years. In 2013/14 74.8 per cent of offenders began within 7 days compared with 67.2 per cent who started within this time in 2016-17.

 Scottish Conservative shadow justice secretary Liam Kerr said: “These systemic failures are harming criminals’ opportunities to be rehabilitated and shows that the current system is over-capacity.

“Despite all these failures the SNP is ploughing on with their plans to scrap prison sentences of less than a year. This will mean that thousands more criminals, including many convicted of domestic abuse, would receive CPOs and fines instead of a jail term. More convicted criminals are therefore entering a system that has no capacity.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Local authorities are responsible for delivering community sentences. They have received protected funding of £100 million for criminal justice social work services with an extra £4m in each of the last two years for community sentences

“As well as contributing to a reduction in reconviction rates to an 18-year-low – in turn helping to reduce crime and victimisation – CPOs have delivered nearly 6 million hours of unpaid work to benefit communities since their introduction in 2011-12.”